Daily Event for February 8, 2006

As we all know the convoy system in both world wars was vital in winning the war. The crews of these ships however paid a high price for victory.

On Feb 4, 1943 convoy SC-118 was located by the U-187. SC-118 was a 61 ship convoy bound for Britain. They were escorted by 3 destroyers, 4 corvettes and a U.S. Coast Guard cutter. The German's had known of the convoy since it left port, but did not know the exact route they would take. One of the ships in the convoy accidental fired a snow flake that was seen by the U-187. U-187 sent a message reporting the position of the convoy, but their signal was picked up by the Toward, which was carrying "huff duff" (high frequency direction finder) Toward dispatched the destroyers HMS Beverly and HMS Vimy, who soon located and sank the U-187. Nine of the U-boat's crew are killed in the attack. However the message was also received by other German

The first large attack on the convoy was made on the evening of Feb.4. The efforts of the escorts were effective and they managed to drive the U-boat's off twice that night. The following morning the attacks came again. The first victim was the U.S. merchant ship West Portal. She was sunk by the U-413 with the loss of 52 of the crew. Twelve of the dead were Naval Armed Guards. By now three more escorts from Iceland had arrived. (2 U.S. destroyers and another cutter) Survivors from the West Portal were picked up by the cutter USS Ingham.

On Feb 6 the wolfpack regrouped for a further attack. U-465 was damaged by an air attack from Liberator bombers buy, this did not detour the German's. At around 19:00 the U-266 sank the Greek freighter Polyktor. Only 2 men survived the sinking. Later in the evening another attack by five boats were repealed by the escorts. The U-267 was so badly damaged by the HMS Vimy that they had to retire and return to port for repairs. The U-262 however managed to break through the escort screen. They fired a spread of 5 torpedoes, but they all missed their intended targets. However, two fish from a second spread sank the Polish merchantman Zagloba. The ship sank so quickly that the U-262 did not even notice it. There were no survivors from this ship. The USS Bibb located the U-262 and the Free French corvette Lobelia attacked her with depth charges. U-262, heavily damaged, returned to port.

February 7, 1943 was the deadliest day for all concerned. Early in the morning the U-402 arrives on the scene. Siegfried Freiherr von Forstner positioned his U-boat on the unprotected starboard side of the convoy and fired. He sank two ships. One the Robert E. Hopkins, a U.S. tanker. Fifteen of the fifty-seven man crew were killed. The other was the Toward. The Toward, a British merchant ship, was also the rescue ship. She was also the only ship with the huff duff equipment. When she went down 58 people went with her. There were only 16 survivors. The U-402 retired to reload her tubes. The next loss was the British merchant ship Harmala. The U-614 sent her and 43 men to the bottom. The French corvette Lobelia rescued the 11 survivors. It was time for the U-402 to return. They damaged the Norwegian tanker Daghild. All 39 of her crew were able to abandon the ship and were rescued by the Lobelia.

While searching for survivors from the Daghild, the Lobelia ran into the U-609. They damaged her with gunfire and destroyed her with depth charges. Her entire 47 man crew died. The U-402 would now strike again. Sinking the British merchantman Afrika. 37 of her crew survived, but 23 perished in the sinking. The U-402 dropped astern of the convoy and fired again. The Greek merchant ship Kalliopi now fell to the U-402. Four more men died, however 32 of the crew survived. The U-402 fired again, This time the results were catastrophic. She hit the USS Henry. R. Mallory, a troopship.

The Mallory had been built as a passenger liner in 1916. In World War 1 she was used for trooping duty. She was returned to passenger service in Oct. 1919, but in World War 2 she was recalled as a trooper. The Mallory was carrying 383 "passengers"  Two civilians and 381 military personal. (Army, Navy and Marines) The Henry R. Mallory sank 30 minuets after the torpedo hit her. No other ships came to the rescue as no one knew she had been hit. It was not until four hours later the USS Bibb stumbled across the survivors. The Bibb rescued 205, but 3 died on board. The USS Ingham rescued another 22, but sadly two of these men died of their injuries. In total 272 from the Henry R. Mallory had died.

By the morning of Feb. 8 most of the U-boats had lost contact with the convoy, and continuous air attacks prevented them from surfacing. This did not save the U-624. They were located and destroyed by depth charging from a B-17.  It cost all 47 in the boat their lives. Only 2 boats, U-402 and U-456, still had contact with the convoy. The U-456 was driven off by the HMS Beverly, but the U-402 lined up another target. Von Forstner's final victim was the British freighter Newton Ash. This time 34 of the 38 man crew died. The four survivors were picked up by the USS Ingham. In one day the U-402 had sunk 6 ships for a total of 32,446 tons. They damaged one other ship, the Daghild for 9,272 tons. They also took the lives of 406 people.

The U-402 now out of torpedoes narrowly escaped from the USS Bibb and USS Ingham. The U-608 attempted a further attack with no success. The last two boats, U-135 and U-614 were damaged by air attack while trying to approach the area.

The convoy lost one other ship. The Greek freighter Adamas. She had been rammed by a destroyer in the Malay of the day. Once again the Lobelia came to the rescue. They rescued 11 men but ordered the rest to remain on the ship until daylight. Many of those on board finally jumped overboard and died in the freezing water. Only 2  were rescued and revived.

The U-608 located the damaged hulk of the Daghild and sent it to the bottom. The U-402 did not survive much longer. She was sunk on Oct. 13, 1943 by aircraft from the USS Card. The captain and crew who had done so much damage to convoy SC-118 were all killed.
© 2006 Michael W. Pocock

A British Convoy